Saturday, September 29, 2012
Modern Manhood by David Wallace Fleming
I'm not gonna lie, when I first started reading this, I thought I was going to be reading a short little humorous fictional essay (wow, that's a lot of adjectives). However, it's actually more of a nonfictional article describing the path society has taken in regard to what it means to be a man. Still fun to read, however, and I'm pleased to continue giving David my compliments. Modern Manhood deserves every one of the 4 out of 5 stars I've given it.
From the author:
Modern Manhood—it’s a subject that needs to be addressed in earnest by someone, I suppose, eventually...
What’s it mean to be a man in times when most employment consists of clicking a mouse and making a PowerPoint? (Nobody really knows anymore). Trust me. I’ve looked. I’ve read. I’ve asked around the usual places.
There are people who can give a biblical interpretation; there are people who can give a biological interpretation; there are people who can give an interpretation based upon historical inequality. But if you’ve ever asked yourself, “Am I there yet? Is this it?” or “Wasn’t there supposed to be a boom—some luminous flash of light...” chances are you live in the United States, are between 18 and 40, and male.
Ah, the hopeless, pathetic, forgotten male—is he a relic, an anachronism, a vestigial bundle or excessive upper-body strength no longer needed in an era of unmanned attack drones, seven adjective lattes and dual income families? Was Beyonce right? Do girls run the world? To answer all these questions and more, we must do what men do best: Get our bearings. Not just in space—but in time.
Like I said, for some reason I thought this would be another techno-satire akin to Not from Concentrate and Growing Up Wired. In fact, this 12,000 word essay has a lot in common with what I believe to be its fictional counterpart, Growing Up Wired, which is a fantastic fictional story about coming of age in a technology-dominated world (I wrote a review of it! Go check it out!)
Modern Manhood discusses the origins of the traditional 'rites of passage', and I was reminded that while different religions and cultures have different rites of passage for males to pass from boyhood to manhood, women don't really have those. Aside from developing physically, of course (BOOBS. I'm talking about boobs.) So, then, how does a man claim his stake as the 'master' of the planet?
This essay was particularly interesting to me, a 23 year old white male growing up in the Northeast United States. As in, I'm the norm. Nothing special about a white guy in his 20's, and I'm basically stuck competing with every other white guy in his 20's to attract a potential wife and achieve alpha status. No more life or death battles to impress and provide for the women of the village; we're stuck telling jokes in the hopes of finding love. Which is a modern concept in itself. Early civilizations, couples were formed out of necessity to propogate the race, and it was 'survival of the fittest' as any Intro to Biology student could tell you. Even in later times, when we were finally 'civilized', people chose their mates based on who could provide for them. Women were chosen based on their child-birthing ability (the bigger hips, the better), and men were chosen based on their capacities to hunt, or otherwise provide food, shelter, and eventually money for their female counterparts. Nowadays, women care for themselves, and it's that much harder to be a man in today's society. David pretty much hits the nail on the head with his discussion on modern manhood.
Oh, I have to say that I really enjoyed the little tidbit about the new American 'rite of passage', which entails losing one's virginity. Quite a ways away from ancient traditions of leaving sons out in the wilderness to fend for themselves and earn their status as men, wouldn't you say? ;)